Comic Relief in the Tale of Two Cities
Comic relief is an important theatrical convention that makes the story more interesting and appealing to readers. In Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens uses one of his minor but fascinating characters, Jerry Cruncher, to depict this. The two or three chapters dealing with Jerry Cruncher and his family life are humorous and he also illustrates the terrible poverty during the 18th century. And despite the novel’s tragic scenes and symbolic images, Dickens uses Jerry to lighten things up a bit.
Jerry Cruncher is a multidimensional tradesman, honest to some, but truly not, as well as a conscientious father and self-conscious individual. Jerry Cruncher can be described as gruff and ragged. An odd-job man, who sits outside Tellson’s Bank during the day and is a body-snatcher by night. He is also uneducated which lead him to do unnecessary actions. Even when describing Jerry, Dickens uses jokes. “Mr.
Cruncher himself always spoke of the year of our Lord as Anna Dominoes: apparently under the impression that the Christian era dated from the invention of a popular game, by a lady who had bestowed her name upon it. ” (Dickens 66) Dickens also uses the character of Jerry to illustrate the terrible poverty of life in England during the 1700’s when Dickens goes more in depth about Jerry in chapter 14 called The Honest Tradesman. This was a chapter dedicated solely to Jerry Cruncher. In this chapter, the most interesting and comic scene is presented.
Jerry has such a hard time supporting his family that he resorts to digging up dead bodies in secret to help make ends meet. He tries to hide this by telling his wife and son that he is going fishing, but instead he was actually fishing up for bodies to sell to a surgeon. Another humorous scene in the story is how he becomes paranoid and begins to hate that his wife prays about him. He believes that she is praying against him. “What do you mean by flopping yourself down and praying against me? ” (Dickens 67) He sometimes snubs and beats her for doing so.
He constantly calls himself “an honest tradesman”, even to his son. All these peculiarities of Jerry Cruncher are humorous. In conclusion, Dickens uses comic relief to appeal to his readers and change the mood. Jerry Cruncher is a perfect example of this. His life is a prototype of the poverty during 18th century. Through his characteristics, misfortunes in life, and bizarre actions, Jerry Cruncher was able to provide the reader humorous scenes rather than the chaotic and violent drama of the French Revolution.